03. Before Alexander, 3.2 Ancient Greece, 3.2.1 Culture and Society, Alexander - Non Fiction Book, Reviews

English Book Review/Collaboration: “Le macchine nel mondo antico: Dalle civiltà mesopotamiche a Roma imperiale” by Giovanni Di Pasquale

Recensione in italiano: QUI.

Quotes: HERE.

Hello everyone, thank you for being on Alessandro III di Macedonia- your resource on Alexander the Great! Today I tell you about my latest reading. It is:

“Le macchine nel mondo antico. Dalle civiltà mesopotamiche a Roma imperiale”

by Giovanni Di Pasquale

Published by the italian: Carocci

Genre: Essay

Pages: 241

ISBN Paperback: 978-8843095896

Antiquity is imagined as an era of extraordinary artistic and architectural, literary and philosophical flourishing. The alleged marginality of scientific knowledge, the inability to place science and technology in a profitable relationship, in addition to the wide availability of slaves, have been the pillars of the extremely resistant thesis of “technological stagnation” of the ancient world. The author tries to refute this hypothesis by making use of studies and research of the last few years. Antiquity, an era in which everything was conceived from nothing, is characterized by the presence of characters capable of building and using tools to carry out challenges that have long appeared as impossible dreams. Tubs for pressing grapes, presses, millstones, cranes, water wheels, war devices and for the theater define the Mediterranean landscape as a real “country of machines”.

Giovanni Di Pasquale is an associate associate professor of History of Science at Texas A&M University. He collaborates with the Museo Galileo and is the author of numerous publications on the history of science between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

4 stars.

Reading time: from 9th to 28th January 2020.

First of all I’d like to thank the publisher Carocci for sending me the book!

On the fourth cover is written that the books in this series are “for those who believe that life never stops learning” and it’s really true because I started this reading believing that in the ancient world there was no real study of machines, but here it’s narrated, in a sort of journey through space and time, of the “country of machines”, fundamental tools for civilizations to develop and

Questo volume guarda «ai gesti ripetuti, alle storie silenziose e dimenticate dagli uomini, alla realtà di lunga durata il cui peso è stato immenso, ma il rumore appena percettibile».

Braudel F., Capitalismo e civiltà materiale

I will immediately leave you the index of the volume to show you how much the author has analyzed the theme of machines in all its facets and applications.


Introduzione. Un mondo senza macchine?
1. Gli antichi, i moderni e le macchine

Il problema del macchinismo nel mondo antico/Alcune opinioni degli antichi sulla tecnica/L’estetica della macchina
2. Il sistema tecnico degli antichi imperi
I mezzi meccanici nella terra tra i due fiumi/La grande macchina umana/Le conquiste tecniche degli Assiri/I giardini: tra mito e realtà/Le macchine per le acque del Nilo/Le macchine dei faraoni: attività costruttive
3. La pietra. Città e macchine
L’origine divina delle tecniche/Dal tecnico al direttore dei lavori/Vitruvio/Le gru di Vitruvio/Le macchine di Erone di Alessandria
4. La guerra
Prima della catapulta/La rivoluzione delle macchine da lancio/Filone di Bisanzio/Le innovazioni/Le nuove figure professionali/Roma: alcuni episodi/Le macchine di Apollodoro di Damasco/Le sintesi del tardo antico
5. Le macchine per meravigliare
La pneumatica/Le macchine del tempo/I teatri e gli automi
6. Le macchine di Archimede
Archimede meccanico: mito o realtà?/La vite di Archimede/Gli specchi ustori /Archimede tra Siracusa e Alessandria
7. Il cielo
Il cielo diventa una sfera/La meccanizzazione della sfera celeste
8. La terra
Da Catone il Censore a Erone di Alessandria. Macchine per l’agricoltura/L’innovazione e il progresso tecnologico
9. L’acqua
Sollevare l’acqua/L’energia dall’acqua/La macchina di Ctesibio
Indice dei nomi

In the collective imagination, the ancient world, precisely because it was “ancient”, didn’t know the machines or tools that man could use in everyday life. Nothing could be more wrong and this book explains why in detail. In the ancient world there was and even pneumatics, technology to amaze and amuse the guests of banquets and parties.

It’s precisely in the Hellenistic period, what interests me, that a science of machines appears because there is a search for invention, improvement and this shows the leap forward compared to the previous era. During Hellenism, moreover, these scholars entrust their knowledge to writing for the first time, first intended for other knowledge, in fact:

Se le macchine sono strutture destinate a scomparire, il trattato diventa il mezzo per tramandare nei secoli le imprese di questi meccanici.

The chapter on the war also talks about Philip II and Alexander the Great (and I add, how they could have been missing!): they made use of the excellent mechanic called Poleydos who designed some of the highest siege towers. He had as pupils Diade and Caria who played a fundamental role in Alexander’s successes. Poleydos and Diade each wrote a treatise on the war machines both now lost. Alexander also had Posidonius the Macedonian as a war mechanic.

Questo meccanismo dimostra come la precisione delle misure e la complessità di calcolo non fossero estranei all’orizzonte concettuale degli antichi e alle loro possibilità tecniche.

From the third century BC in the Library of Alexandria, a center of exchange and fervent cultural activity, there were the greatest scholars of all the arts and also of mechanics.

Al contrario di quanto comunemente ritenuto, il mondo antico è stato caratterizzato da un enorme sforzo per elaborare teorie a margine di un’intensa attività tecnica, tecnologica e scientifica.

It surprised me to know that automaton theaters existed back then! It doesn’t miss the part dedicated to the Roman world!

This book is easy to read, interesting and in my opinion is suitable for all readers who want to approach the theme of machines: it doesn’t require particular background knowledge and all the passages mentioned are translated in italian. The text is accompanied by a rich apparatus of photos and reconstructions of the machines that illustrate the tools described.

I already have two other books by Giovanni di Pasquale but this is the first one I read and I’m very happy with this reading that I recommend to everyone!

You can find this 244-page book in all online stores and physical bookstores but it is only available in paper format. I leave you the link of the book page from the Carocci’s website.

Did I manage to intrigue you with this reading of mine?

Thanks again to the editor Carocci for the free copy!

Have a good day everyone,

#CopiaOmaggio #ProdottoOffertoDa Carocci Editore

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